TAMPA — Montreal defenseman Shea Weber was fined the maximum allowed under the collective bargaining agreement on Tuesday for a non-call slash on Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov.
Weber, who was assessed a $5,000 fine by the NHL’s department of player safety, slashed Kucherov during the third period in the Lightning’s series-opening 5-1 win over the Canadiens.
Kucherov was a moving target on the ice Monday night, also drawing a roughing penalty from Montreal defenseman Ben Chiarot.
It was the first meeting between the teams since March 5, 2020, after the league decided to implement division-only playing during this year’s regular season and Montreal — normally an Atlantic Division opponent — was moved to the Canada-only North Division.
The non-call fine comes less than 24 hours after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman addressed ongoing complaints about officiating this postseason.
“It seems every season, it’s a playoff ritual for me to address some aspect of officiating,” Bettman said. “Let’s be clear, our officials are not only the best hockey officials in the world, they are the best officials in any sport.”
Bettman recognized the speed of the game makes certain calls more difficult, especially with the split-second reaction time. Yes, officials miss calls, but not as many as fans may suggest.
“We don’t like it when it happens. In fact we hate it, but it is the nature of the human element of calling our game,” he said. “And even with the human element, we have been and will continue to be at the forefront of adding technology to assist in their efforts.”
Bettman reiterated that officials are constantly coached and critiqued to be held accountable. But as style of play changes from the regular season to the postseason, it impacts “how officiating is perceived.”
“We always know that there are a handful of calls and non-calls that we wish would be otherwise. And depending on your rooting interest you will likely have even more than a handful,” he said. “Would we prefer that perfection is achieved? Of course, absolutely. Is it possible? Of course not.”
The Lightning and fans were particularly unhappy with a hit on Kucherov early in Game 6 of the semifinals. Kucherov took a cross-check to the back with an official nearby on the ice.
Kucherov got up and continued playing, eventually getting into an awkward collision along the boards that removed him for the remainder of the game. He was healthy enough to return for the Game 7 series finale against New York.
In the same series, Lightning center Brayden Point was called for goaltender interference on New York’s Semyon Varlamov after he was pushed from behind by Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech. As a result, the Islanders scored on the ensuing power play to tie the score at 1-all in the first period.
And four days later, Point was pushed into Varlamov — again — this time, by Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield.
Also against the Islanders, Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev was called for interference on New York forward Mat Barzal as the two battled for the puck in the corner and Barzal fell to the ice as Sergachev cut in front to gain position on the play.
And it’s not just the Lightning raising an eyebrow at officiating. Teams around the league have had issues of their own throughout this postseason.
In Game 4 of the Montreal-Vegas semifinals, Canadiens defenseman Joel Edmundson cross-checked Vegas forward William Carrier in the neck. An on-ice official was looking right at the play without making a call.
In the same game, an official turned his head after Vegas’ Brayden McNabb punched Montreal’s Nick Suzuki in the head.
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